How to Shop Smarter as a College Student

Get the messy look just right

All of us “poor” college students know that money can get pretty tight between dinners downtown and Friday night outings. On a more serious note, textbooks, study abroad payments, and groceries are also important and costly expenses that can really suck a girl’s bank account dry.

If I’m being honest, I’m privileged in that my parents are able to provide a lot for me (thanks Mom and Dad!). But that doesn’t mean I don’t work hard for my money and I make sure to spend it wisely.

So here are some tips I’ve compiled from my obsession with clothes.

Invest in pieces that will last a long time. Last summer, when I bought a pair of L.L. Bean boots, I was a little freaked out by the amount of money I had left in my bank account. But I’ve already worn those boots a ton of times and will probably continue to wear them religiously in the years to come. Eventually, the benefits outweigh the initial payment. Other staples you should invest in: a nice winter coat, rain boots, and closet staples that you know you’ll wear a lot.

Learn how to make simple fixes. Learning how to sew is actually a great skill, and one that will come in handy when you lose a button or a piece of clothing tears. Instead of rushing to the store to buy a new button-down, grab a needle and thread and get to sewing that button back on. The same goes for ripped straps and holes in seams.

Use that college ID for something besides board meals. A lot of stores have discounts for college students, all you have to do is show them your ID and smile when you see that 15 percent taken off. Stores that give a student discount: J. Crew, ASOS, Charlotte Russe, Kate Spade, Barnes and Noble, and Alex and Ani. Keep in mind that you can only get a student discount when shopping in store for most of these.

Hit up the outlet mall or factory stores online. I cannot express enough how much I love outlet stores. Everything is way cheaper but still the same quality you would get at the regular store. My favorite is J. Crew Factory, where I have ordered a lot of cute clothes from. Kate Spade outlet also has great deals.

Take the time to scour through the clearance section. Th Dry Goods clearance section is a hidden gem, by the way. It can take some time to look through all the chaos to find something you like, but if you’re patient maybe you’ll be blessed by the fashion gods and find something good.

Go thrift shopping. Okay, honestly, I am not big on thrift shopping, but I know other people who have found great stuff at Goodwill. If you know your way around a secondhand shop, you probably already know that this a good way to spend less money on stuff.

Be careful of the type of quality you’re buying. For example, jeans. If they aren’t good quality, you will find yourself tossing them every year. Jeans should last a couple of years (as most denim products should). The same goes for jackets, shoes, sweaters, etc. Pieces like tank tops, v-necks, etc. are usually cheaper and easily replaced.

Know when to close your laptop and drive to the mall instead. So much of my money has gone toward shipping fees, which sucks. Online shopping is convenient, but seeing an extra $7 to $10 pinned onto your total is not the greatest feeling. Sometimes, you will have to leave the cave that is your dorm room, rejoin the world of the living, and actually go try things on.

I hope this helps – let me know other ways you all “shop smart” in the comments below.

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